In my fuzzy gray sweatpants and a sloppy sweatshirt, I snuggle into my spot on the sectional, remote in hand and a coffee on the end table. A few cats curl up in my lap and our mastiff Henry finds his spot among his favorite collection of toys as I make the big decision—will it be Jane the Virgin, Reign, or Nashville tonight?
Meanwhile, my husband plops himself onto his computer chair in front of his beloved computer games, waiting for the oven timer to beckon him forth for his chicken patty or frozen pizza. It’s a Saturday night and we’re under 30, but you wouldn’t know it by our schedule. The wild life of the 20-something isn’t quite our scene—we’re content tucked in at home with our favorite things.
Although lazy days at home are essential and envy-worthy, strings of them have led us to somewhat humdrum, introverted lives. Other than some trips to the beach and a few local events, our scrapbook of memories mostly sits empty.
This is a far-cry from our dating years, when we went countless unique places. Our scrapbook is filled with memories from museums, art installations, plays, concerts, zoos, and aquariums. We can flip through the pages and say, “remember when” with smiles and laughs about the experiences. Most of these trips were school sponsored or college sponsored, but the point is the memories we have from those trips are memories we used as a foundation for our connection.
They are the moments we look back on with a smile. They weave our connected history.
Achieving our Bucket List
At 29, we’ve come to realize that it isn’t really the traveling part or where you go—it’s the fact you’re doing something new together. Looking back over the years, the times we got out of our comfy clothes and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone to try something new are the times we remember with a smile.
Thus, with 30 looming over us, we felt a need to change it up this year. I know age is just a number, but there is something symbolic about the shift from the 20s to the 30s. I want the shift to be memorable. I want this to be a year we can fill our scrapbook. I want it to be a year we talk about for the next decade.
So this year, we’ve vowed to try new things. We’ve made an achievement list inspired by my husband’s love for gaming. We’ve included big goals and trips that probably won’t happen, but we’ve also set small realistic goals.
We’ve picked local places we’ve never been. We agreed to do some sort of volunteer work together this year. We’ve vowed to go inner tubing and horseback riding. I agreed to finally get my tattoo this year. We’ve talked about memories that will fill our scrapbook and give us a sense of adventure.
Adventure on a Budget
Because, like so many, we’re on a budget, our list isn’t extravagant. We don’t own a yacht, and an impromptu trip to Tahiti, although adventurous, isn’t in the cards for us right now. We are small town, simple people who have never been out of the country together and probably never will be. I’ve come to learn, though, that adventure doesn’t have to equate to an expensive, budget-blowing venture.
Some of our favorite adventures were super cheap and super close by. I don’t think you have to be a world traveler to find adventure. Adventure takes on its own form for everyone. We’re challenging ourselves this year to find our own.
In short, we want to fill our year with new memories because at the end of it, isn’t that what life is all about? At 29, I think we’ve finally realized that the amount of shoes in your closet, the amount of video games on your shelf, and the amount of hours you’ve logged watching Netflix don’t create a life. It’s the true connection of exploring this huge world together that will be something we can look back on.
Are we doing a great job at adhering to our newfound sense of adventure? Not particularly. This past weekend, we checked one of the more luxurious items off our list—we went for our first couple’s massage and added a new memory to our scrapbook. Still, on an average week, it’s hard to break your homebody habits, and Netflix is a beckoning siren’s song.
Adult responsibilities, stresses, and exhaustion all tempt us to leave the scrapbook blank for one more year. There’s nothing wrong with a few lazy days, and we know our list probably won’t get completely finished. Nonetheless, we’re getting out and making as many memories as we can. We’re saying “yes” to more invitations even when we’re tempted to say “no.” We’re finding that life isn’t necessarily built sitting on a couch eating snacks. Life is about finding, exploring, trying, experiencing, and finding. Life is about building moments together so that someday, when we look back on this life we’ve had together, we can say, “Do you remember when…”
I think we’ve figured out that making memories with those you love the most is how you truly find an adventurous, fulfilling life full of joy.
I married the funny guy.
I didn’t necessarily mean for it to happen . In 7th grade, though, he stole my heart with his class clown tendencies and ability to make me laugh. I can still picture the day I, Miss Goody Two-Shoes, got in trouble in history class because my now-husband made a joke about the teacher’s drawing on the board.
Since the beginning, he’s known just what to say to make me laugh, even if I don’t like to admit it. He’s the one at parties and gatherings telling stories to get the group laughing. He’s the one I can’t stay angry at because he knows just how to soften my mood with a punchline.
Being married to the funny guy isn’t always glamorous. Frequently, I’m asking him if he’s capable of taking anything seriously. Still, I must admit there are benefits, as with anything in life, to marrying a guy with a killer sense of humor.
1. Life is hard. Laughter makes it easier.
Bills, work, illnesses, adult drudgery—growing up isn’t easy. Life is filled with tough moments and hardships. Having a man by my side who can lighten the mood, who can make me truly laugh even on the worst day has helped alleviate the melancholic undertones life sometimes provides. Even when I’m crying because of a terrible day, he knows how to make me smile and realize things aren’t completely awful.
2. He is often the life of the party.
As an introvert, this is a benefit for me. I’m the girl at parties who is awkwardly admiring the cheese platter in an attempt to avoid small talk. My husband is the one steering me toward a group of new people as he enchants them with his hilarious re-tellings of the time we got lost on the way to the zoo, the time I choked on burnt pork chops, or the time he tried Pilates for the first time. Having a man who’s able to direct our social interactions and brighten even the dullest party is a plus for a socially awkward person like me.
3. He makes even the mundane task exciting.
Last week, we had two vet appointments in the same week—these things happen when you are a bit of a cat collector. Even the boring task of waiting in the reception area for an hour was bearable because he was cracking jokes the entire time. From weird jokes at Walmart to the dentist’s office, I’m never bored thanks to his ability to find humor in even the most tedious task.
4. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.
My horrific cooking and navigation skills are often the source of my husband’s joke-telling. Still, he’s also not afraid to poke fun at himself. He’s not so full of himself he can’t take a joke or even make a joke about himself. His humility in the form of humor makes him down-to-earth. We never feel in competition with each other because neither of us has an ego so serious we can’t laugh at our own blunders.
5. It’s hard to stay mad at him.
When we’re fighting, this doesn’t always feel like a benefit. Nonetheless, his ability to crack any argument with a joke is a gift. Even when I’m so mad at him I can’t even breath, he is able to assuage the situation with a one-liner or a ridiculous joke.
6. He can turn even your worst moment into an amateur comedy routine.
I’m a major worrier and perfectionist. When I’m devastated about a simple mistake or feeling like my life is over, he’s there to make even the worst thing seem like a joke.
7. No one ever feels awkward in our home.
He makes everyone feel comfortable by making a joke out of any awkward situation. One time, we had friends over who had brought a bottle of wine. It was right after we moved in, and I was humiliated because we didn’t own a wine cork. Instead of trying to avoid the conversation, Chad just owned it and made a huge joke about it. Even the most awkward moments are smoothed over because he’s able to help everyone laugh it off.
8. He doesn’t get mad about the little things.
A flat tire because I backed into the curb.
A cracked patio table because I left the umbrella up.
A ruined hardwood floor because I left a wet mop on it.
I have made my share of mistakes, especially when it comes to household tasks. I struggle with being a grownup, as does my husband. While some men get frustrated over wasted money or household issues or broken items, my husband doesn’t. He sees the humor in everything from a shattered glass table to the time the refrigerator door handle popped off in his hand. His ability to shrug off the small stuff—even when it doesn’t feel small—helps us keep perspective in life and be thankful for the things we’re blessed with.
9. His humor is a gift in a sometimes bleak world.
It’s not just me who benefits from his optimism and ability to laugh off the small stuff. I see his interactions with everyone and how he brightens so many days. From a sick relative recovering from illness to an elderly lady in the grocery store, his gift for humor is shared with so many people. I see the way he can bring a smile to a devastated face or make someone laugh who hasn’t had much going right. His ability to make others smile is something I admire in him.
10. Looks, strength, and even smarts can fade—a good sense of humor usually doesn’t.
Muscles might soften with age, and even intelligence can dim as the years go by. However, I know his sense of humor will probably be going strong, even when we’re old and gray. Even when I can’t remember every story anymore or when our lives are winding down to the final chapters, I know I won’t be afraid or regretful. Instead, I’ll be smiling at his jokes, at his ability to see the humor in it all, up until the very end.
Marrying the funny guy doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of blissful happiness or easy travels through the treacherous journey called life. It does, however, promise a lifetime of smiling even when you feel like crying, of finding the humor in the most difficult hurdles, and of having fun when it seems impossible.
I think these are gifts we can only hope to have in marriage, in love, and in life in general.
My husband is amazing. Seriously.
For our five-year anniversary, he got me tickets to go see Keith Urban in Hershey, PA...and he got us great seats. What's more...the concert was on his own birthday. And he's not a fan of country, concerts, or sexy Australian rockers :)
Keith Urban was truly amazing! I love how he interacts with his fans, pulling up a local girl to sing with him and giving a signed guitar to a young boy in the audience. I love that he goes all in for his concert, obviously exhausted by the end because he pours so much into his performance. I love his songs. Plus, I love his accent and tattoos.
I definitely have some writing inspiration now for the sexy men in my romance novels :)
Thanks to my husband for willingly paying to take me to ogle my country man crush. <3
Five years ago today, I walked down that aisle, said I do, and walked into our life together. My hands were shaking, and the aisle looked so long. We'd prepared for the day for months, but in reality, we'd prepared for years. That day was a long time coming. From the second I saw you in that 7th grade art class, I knew there was something special between us.
As the years passed, we celebrated so many milestones of growing up together. Walking down the aisle, I'd already known you for over a decade. We'd laughed together, cried together, fought with each other, and threw in the towel. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we were ready... sort of.
That day, nothing was perfect. The deejay lost power. I almost put your ring on the wrong hand. My dress straps almost came undone and your mom had to patch them before the reception. My bustle was all wrong, and the cake crumbled when we cut it. There were lots of "oh nos."
But we didn't care. We were bound together by some simple words, a white dress, and a magical day. We were wrapped up in the sheer joy of the moment, in the connection we had, even if everything wasn't quite right.
Now, looking back over the past 5 years we've had, I know the wedding was just the beginning. Over the past 5 years, we've had so many more moments of sheer joy. We've stood together, built a life together, been through so many more milestones. We found an apartment and bought our first furniture. We laughed at one of our first dinners because a friend brought a bottle of wine and we didn't even have a corkscrew. We celebrated first holidays and made new traditions. We bought a house, a dog, and collected quite a few cats along the way. We chased dreams, chased careers, chased passions.
We celebrate the little moments, too. We laugh together everyday, sharing in an inside joke from across the room without a single word. We enjoy our lazy evenings on the couch watching Netflix or taking a nap or eating Lunchables instead of cooking. We go to Applebees for appetizers just because we feel like it or buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We play pranks on each other and buy each other chocolates and sing crazy songs to drive each other nuts.
It hasn't been perfect, of course. We've shared in some rough moments, too. The inevitable, "life's not fair" moments have snuck up on us. We've mourned lost opportunities, lost pets, lost moments. We've had hurt feelings. We've hurt each other. We've been tired and broken and exhausted from this thing called life.
Still, the good definitely outweighs the bad. I'm thankful we've had the past 5 years to figure out who we are together. I'm thankful to have 5 years of amazing married life. I'm thankful to have a man who will support my crazy endeavors, whether it's going to a school musical to support the district I teach in or driving three hours in the pouring rain to sell books for my writing career. I'm thankful for a man who, even on my worst day, can make me laugh, can say what I need to hear, can tell me the truth others won't. I'm thankful to have a man who isn't afraid to laugh at himself, at life, and find joy in the simple things.
Just like our wedding day, things aren't perfectly glamorous. We live a simple life, perhaps even an ordinary life.
Still, on the anniversary of our wedding day, I know this life is exactly the life I'm meant to be living, exactly the life I'd choose if I could do it all over again because any life with you is extraordinary in its own right.
I love you. Happy anniversary.
***As seen on The Huffington Post***
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: There IS no secret formula to a perfect marriage because there IS no such thing as a perfect marriage.
Experts divulge ways to ensure your marriage will work. There are plenty of internet quizzes to help you decide how healthy your marriage is. Articles advise what to do and what not to do, making you sweat over the checklists you’re not meeting.These pieces can be fun to read. Sure, they can give you some insight into healthy relationships. But can they help you decode the secret to a perfect marriage?
I don’t think so.
I’ve been married for almost five years, but in many ways, it feels like longer—not because we’re miserable but because we’ve been together for quite a while. I met my husband at the age of twelve, and he’s been my one-and-only ever since. When we said “I do,” we’d been together over a decade. We thought we were going to own this thing called marriage. Challenges? Difficulties? Please. Those were for people who rushed to the altar, not us.
Then we put the rings on and we realized—marriage IS hard. There are plenty of frustrations, stressors, and times when you just feel like tossing your ring into an inferno.
Each marriage and experience, though, is vastly different. The equation for happiness, thus, cannot be generalized. Others can tell you how to make your relationship work until they’re out of breath, but it still won’t work unless it fits your particular circumstance. Our marriages are unique products of who we are as individuals, our past experiences, our relationship experiences, and our current status of connectedness.
Thus, this article isn’t about giving you the top ten secrets to perfect your marriage. This article is about telling you ten things that have worked for my husband and I. Read them, keep a few of them if they suit your relationship, and, most importantly,use them as a springboard to find your own ten ways to improve your relationship.
1. Phone Away Thursdays
On Thursday evenings, we put away all technology and watch a movie together. These few hours a week help us focus on each other and give us a scheduled time during the week to spend time together. In many ways, it’s like a cheap, at-home date that helps us reconnect during the week.
2. Just Spill
I’m guilty of using the silent treatment when I’m mad, but my husband’s helped me overcome this. If I’m pissed about him slacking around the house or if he thinks I was being a jerk to his family, we spill. Being honest with each other and telling each other when you’re mad about little things will prevent issues from escalating. Letting things simmer, in our experience, leads to the irrevocable blow-ups that can damage relationships.
3. Separate Bank Accounts
Our families think we’re crazy for this, but we’ve found separate bank accounts helps us both maintain independence. It started because we were lazy; we didn’t feel like switching our individual direct deposit items or bills to another account. Now, we’ve found it works because we both manage smaller purchases on our own. After coming up with a system for splitting bills, we’ve found we rarely fight about money because we have a sense of independence.
4. Talk about big purchases or decisions
If I’m buying a $20 shirt at the mall, I don’t run it by Chad. If I’m buying a $600 laptop because mine blew up, I do check with him. When he decides to get inked again, he runs it by me. We respect each other enough to get opinions on big purchases and decisions. It’s about maintaining the feeling of teamwork. We maintain our independence in the day-to-day things, but the big things are decisions made together.
5. Recognize the small gestures
The movies and literature tell us romance is in the big, sweeping gestures. We’ve come to realize these high expectations can lead to disappointment and resentment. Routines and budgeting practicalities rule out private jets to secret islands and dozens of red roses. Look for the small things that show you care about each other. This might come in the form of a Milky Way, my favorite candy, when Chad stops to get eggs at the grocery store. It might mean I pick up Krampus at Walmart because I know Chad wanted to see it. Small gestures can lead to big connections, and showing appreciation for these gestures can enhance relationships.
A study by Sara Algoe at UNC-Chapel Hill looked at forty-seven couples who had been together for an average of five years and found that expressing gratitude for small things can lead to big results.
6. Come up with a chore system
Our early fights were about chores. I’m talking vicious, name-calling level fights over dishes and trash duty. We tried doing our own laundry, dishes, and cleaning as individuals. We even tried a chore chart at one point to fix this.
It took years for us to find a balance we could both live with. Do we still fight when we feel like the other person is dropping the ball? You bet. Living in a family where both the husband and wife work full-time can be straining. We both grew up in families where our mothers were stay-at-home moms for at least a good portion of our childhoods. Adjusting to a two-career family, thus, was something we didn’t have a model for. In this area of life, I think it’s just about trial and error.
7. Respect individual hobbies
My husband is a gamer; I am a bookworm.
Sometimes I feel like he spends too much money on gaming. Sometimes he thinks I fill our house with too many books.
Sometimes I feel like he spends too many hours in front of the television playing Xbox.
Sometimes he feels like I spent too many hours with my nose in a pretend world.
Sometimes I get tired of hearing him talk about PewDiePie and Steam. Sometimes he gets tired of me talking about vampires and plot devices.
We don’t share in the same hobbies, but we do our best to respect them. We give each other time to pursue our individual interests. In marriage, you cannot completely let go of your individuality or resentment can form. Healthy couples spend time together and apart.
Exhausted, ticked off, grieving—whatever we’re feeling ,Chad and I laugh together every single day. We have dozens of inside jokes and crazy pranks we pull on each other. Even when we’re in the midst of a tragedy or rough patch, we pull together to find the humor in the world around us. Keeping things lighthearted has helped us find joy together. I know when I’m ripping my hair out from a rough day at work, I’ll come home to him and he’ll make me feel better about it. Our shared sense of humor has helped us stay connected to our youthful, childish sides, which ultimately has helped build our bond.
9. Eat Dinner Together
I can’t cook at all. I’ve burnt everything from spaghetti to pancakes. I’ve created literally inedible concoctions. Thus, I use the term “dinner” lightly.
However, the point is, we sit down and eat together every night. Even if we’re being pulled in different directions for the evening, this grounds us in a half hour together where we’re sharing in a meal. This uninterrupted time together helps us reconnect after a long day, even if it’s just reconnecting through shared laughter over my latest cooking failure.
10. Preserving MemoriesIn high school, we started scrap booking our memories together. From time to time, we’ll pull out our seven different picture books and go back through all of the places we’ve been together. When monotony creeps in, it’s good to be able to relive the moments that make you who you are as a couple. Plus, it can inspire you to get out there and make new memories. Since looking at our pictures and realizing we haven’t been anywhere new lately, we’ve added some trips to our summer bucket list.
As I said, there is no secret recipe for a perfect marriage. It’s about trial-and-error, in many ways. It’s about being self-reflective and realizing what you need to work on and what you’ve got down.
Most of all, it’s about deciding you’re in it for the long-haul—and then finding ways to make the long trip successful, no matter what it takes.
CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE ON THE HUFFINGTONPOST BLOG!
On the way home from running errands in our quaint town, my heart fluttered as I drove down the familiar street. I paused for a second at the stop sign, taking in the sight of my first apartment with my husband.
It was a one-bedroom apartment with a “no pets” policy. For the first few months, we didn’t even have internet or cable. Metal folding chairs were our furniture in the early weeks. Trips to the grocery store involved heavy calculations so we didn’t go over our tight budget. Doing laundry required walking outside, around the building, and down a flight of stairs to the dingy basement.
We lacked so much.
However, when I drive by that apartment, I’m always filled with warmth―and not just from the sweaty memories of the summer of record-temperatures without air-conditioning. Thinking of that first year of marriage, I never think about all of the things we didn’t have.
I think of all of the amazing memories and the sheer love we experienced in that first year.
There were spontaneous walks to the local coffee shop on a lazy Sunday afternoon. There were game nights where we played Yahtzee until two in the morning by our single lamp in the cramped dining room. There were spontaneous kisses, simple bouquets of flowers picked from the garden. There were evenings sipping hot chocolate and watching the first snow out our front window. There was the daily feeding of our “pet squirrel” we named Jerry.
There were first Christmas parties, first surprise birthdays where we jammed our family into every inch of the apartment. There were daily laughs, tons of milestones, tons of firsts in that apartment.
Five years later, and we’re still together, still making memories. We’ve got a house of our own now and two extra bedrooms. We’ve got a yard, a grill, and a house full of pets. We’ve figured out our budgeting. We have cable, internet, and several televisions. We have so much more furniture and really, so much more of everything now.
Things are good... but I’d be lying if I said that newlywed euphoria was still present in our marriage. Gone are the days of random wildflower bouquets. Kisses aren’t as frequent, and simple things like playing Yahtzee aren’t as exciting as the newest show on Netflix.
Still, our love has matured and deepened. It’s not as fluttery and magical as the first year, but it’s stronger in many ways. We’ve grown, and so has our love. We’ve weathered tough storms and scary moments. Our connection has moved past the firsts into a region of reliability and steadfastness.
That’s not a bad thing.
Some days, however, I wish I could go back to that first simple year. It certainly wasn’t perfect. There were days of scathing remarks and vicious fights. There were moments we had no clue what we were doing.
Looking back, though, the moments of togetherness, of excitement, of love, shine brighter than the bad ones.
Our society often views newlyweds with criticism and condescension. We like to remind them that “tough times are coming” or refer to them as clueless. We scoff at their belief that passion and romance will last forever. We scowl when we see them drowning each other in sweet looks and tender touches in public.
I think, though, we should be sending them a different message.
So I say to the newlyweds: Bask in every glorious moment of the first year.
However, down the road, the memories you make as newlyweds will be the moments you flash back to. They’ll be the moments you smile about on rough days together. They’ll be the foundation for your life together, the moments that remind you of why you’re better with each other.
They will be the moments that make you smile as you drive past your first place together. More importantly, they will be the moments that remind you why,wherever you are in life, your significant other is truly where home is.
Check this article out on the Huffington Post!
My husband is a burly, bearded gamer. I am a short, pale bookworm.
We are, in many ways, the definition of opposites attract.
My husband loves any kind of game, really. He plays Warhammer—a tabletop game—video games, computer games. He logged more hours on Fallout 4 than I think is even healthy. Every night, while I’m reading, writing or cooking dinner, his go-to activity is plopping in front of some kind of game and escaping to a new world.
I fill our home with quote pictures, books, makeup, and throw pillows.
He fills our home with miniature models, video game systems, Loot Crates, and headsets.
We are 28, still young enough to be adventurous, to be social.
But we aren’t, and we don’t.
Most nights, the call of the gamer speaks to my husband, and he must answer it.
Don’t feel too sorry for me, though. It’s not like this came out of nowhere. It’s not like I married a hiking enthusiast only to be blindsided by a secret gaming addiction. I entered into this relationship knowing this was who he was.
You may ask: Why would I willingly subject myself to this? Why am I okay with the fact my 28-year-old husband probably games more than a teenager?
Oh, I’ve done my share of complaining. I’ve whined about his childish hobby, especially when he tries to use it to get out of mowing the lawn. I’ve scolded him about how much money he’s dumped into make-believe. I’ve rolled my eyes when I’ve heard so many stories about PewDiePie I feel like the guy is family even though I’ve never watched a single video.
Looking at it now, though, 5 years into marriage, I’ve realized, like many things, there are silver linings to marrying a gamer.
1. I know where he is on Friday. I know so many women who have to worry, to wonder where their man is. Is he going to the bar to find a new woman? Can he really be trusted with his friends on a wild night to Vegas?
None of these things have ever crossed my mind.
If Chad isn’t at home in front of his game, he’s out with his friends.
Where is out with his friends? Gatehouse Games, our local tabletop gaming store. Here, you can find camaraderie, a soda machine, lots of talk about things I don’t understand, and some loud rock music.
What won’t you find? Wild times, crazy girls clawing at your man, alcohol, or bad decisions—other than maybe too much money spent on a new army.
Other Fridays, if Chad’s out with his friends… he’s in our gaming room. Playing games. Right down the hall.
I’ve found that, for the most part, a gaming man doesn’t stray too far from his games, from his gamer friends, from his life of imagination. A night at the bar? Please. My husband would rather spend a night exploring magical lands of dragons and zombies.
2. I get lots of reading and TV time.Yes, my husband spends a lot of time on his video games. Yes, he spends a lot of time pushing buttons on a controller.
But you know what?
It’s okay. Because it gives me tons of time to do what I love: reading and watching Netflix.
I don’t have to fight with my husband because a sporting event is coming on he wants to watch. If I need to feed my OITNB addiction, he goes on his computer, no questions asked. If I want to read and have some “me” time, he puts a headset on.
Don’t get me wrong. We still make time for each other. Every Thursday night is movie night, where we put phones, games, and books aside. Every Saturday, we go out to dinner or cook dinner at home together. Each night, we take time talk and walk our mastiff Henry. We make time for each other.
But we don’t only spend time together. We also give each other time apart. His gaming hobby leads to plenty of guilt-free time to pursue what I love. And he doesn’t insist I try to love his hobby because he can do his hobby while sitting right beside me.
3. He has a good imagination.I’ve lived thousands of lives through the pages of my books. I’ve been to other countries, to worlds that don’t exist.
So has my husband.
We both like to explore other worlds—just through different mediums of choice. His gaming has incited a creativity in him, something certainly helpful for a writer like me. We’ve had so many conversations that start with “what if.” We have imaginative discussions, mostly thanks to his imagination incited by gaming.
As a writer, I’ve had so many times where I’m doubting a story line or wondering where to go. Chad’s penchant for storytelling that surfaced from his love of games always helps talk me out of a writing hole.
It’s nice to be married to a man who doesn’t think anything is impossible, who can think creatively.
4. My husband has goals.Okay, so his goal may be to 100% a game. But he has goals and perseverance. He knows what it’s like to work hard for something you want.
Are the achievements he seeks on his Xbox always rational? No, especially in my eyes. However, it’s good to see someone with persistence, with a go-get-it attitude. This translates into a marriage where he doesn’t quit when things get tough. He knows overcoming tough levels takes work, and he doesn’t throw in the towel or the controller when things seem impossible.
5. Gamers will teach you to do what you enjoy.There is still stigma surrounding the gaming world. So many look at my husband and think he’s childish, lazy, or just plain nerdy. Other guys tease him for not spending his time working on his truck or going hunting. Gaming is synonymous with a lack of manliness, at least to some.
But Chad doesn’t care. He games because it’s what he loves. He’s taught me it’s good to have a hobby you enjoy, no matter what others think. He follows this concept in all areas of his life. Recently, we were at the beach. When people were looking at a hurricane simulator in the arcade but feeling too adult to try it out, Chad jumped right it. Did people stare? Yes. Did people think he was childish? Absolutely. But it was something he wanted to do, so he didn’t worry about what everyone thought. He just did it.
Chad’s gaming has taught me not to worry about social stigma. Follow your passions and do what makes you happy.
So Marry a Gamer Some may say gamers are geeky and obsessed and sedentary. Some of this may be accurate
But he’s my gamer. And even though I don’t know what “For the Horde” means, even though the only game I’ve ever successfully played is Goat Simulator, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Baked beans, orange Tic Tacs, and memes.
It sounds like a terrible party game gone wrong, not a list of romantic endeavors.
But for me, these three items have shown me love truly does prove itself in the seemingly insignificant moments.
Married Life versus Romance: The Battle of Time
I’ve been married for 5 years, but I’ve been with my husband over a decade. We’re dedicated, devoted. We’re happy and settled. He’s the one for me.
No matter what the media tries to tell you, marriage is a beautiful thing. When it’s done right, it’s filled with moments of connection, of laughter, and of sheer, unconditional love.
But let’s face it: every marriage, even the strongest, loses its magical, fairytale glint after so long.
The first year, everything feels like you’re living in Paris, drinking wine and watching rose petals fall. The grocery store is an adventure. Showering together, napping together, watching movies together—everything is a romantic date. There are gleeful kisses and “I can’t believe I’ve got you,” moments. There’s pure, sheer romance.
And then: real life.
Bills. Groceries. Cleaning. Worries.
Routine, the romance killer, slinks in.
It doesn’t happen all at once. But suddenly, the “I love yous” are strategically planned. The kisses are fewer and farther between, and maybe a little less energetic. He doesn’t notice your new hairstyle or your new dress or your new anything. You shave your legs, perfect your makeup, and put on his favorite perfume—and he stares at his phone the whole time. Suddenly, he doesn’t want to go with you to the grocery store. Suddenly, you can’t remember the last time you held hands or made-out like teenagers or flirted with each other.
Expectation versus Reality: Romance and Marriage
We all know fairytales aren’t real, and no love is perfect. We’re all warned by wise elders that the magic in marriage fades, that you can’t hold onto the passionate romance forever.
We don’t believe them. Deep down, many of us are still the little girl wishing we could be Cinderella with Prince Charming, Belle with the Beast, or any of the other magical princesses.
We want to be treasured. We want to have someone fall in love with us. We want to be swept off our feet.
It’s certainly not realistic. I don’t even know if it’s possible. Some men would say it’s unfair for women to expect this.
Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult when the magic begins to fade, even a little. It doesn’t make us any less troubled when we start to notice things slipping away, even if it’s just a magical, unrealistic expectation.
How to Keep the Romance Alive: Appreciating the Small Moments
I’ve certainly felt troubled about romance and marriage at times. I’ve noticed in the past few years my husband and I hold hands less and less. I can’t remember the last time he bought me roses for no reason. Candlelight dinners are also a thing of the past—although in fairness, it’s partially because of the fire hazard with five wild cats in the house.
At first, it was easy to blame him. Why don’t you love me anymore? Why don’t you do romantic things for me like you used to? These were the questions that plagued our marriage for a time.
But then, I got real with myself.
Do candlelight dinners, roses, and surprise trips to private islands really prove one’s love? Why was I judging my relationship on a pre-conceived notion of romance? Are grand gestures of romance what I really need in a relationship?
As a married 20-something, I’ve come to learn that even though the fairytale moments are certainly nice from time to time, we have to learn to look for the other, smaller moments as well.
Some may call this settling, and maybe, in fairness, they have a point. But for me, I think it’s more about appreciation for the good things in my relationship. I think it’s about realizing your man might not meet swoon-worthy expectations all of the time, but that doesn’t mean his gestures of love are any less meaningful.
It’s about realizing the loss of huge romantic gestures in a relationship does not equate to a loss of love or a failed marriage.
My husband doesn’t take me dancing to a formal ball. He doesn’t surprise me with trips to Fiji or chocolate-covered strawberries. But he does show me he loves me in all sorts of small ways.
When my husband goes to the grocery store or a convenience store, he always picks up my favorite candy—orange Tic Tacs—and leaves them for me on the counter with a note. When we get KFC for dinner, he orders baked beans as one of the sides even though he hates them. When he’s at home and I’m out or at work, he will send me a picture of a funny meme that he knows will make me laugh. Every day, he does small, seemingly insignificant things to show me I matter to him, to show me I’m always in his thoughts.
Are these the gestures romance novels are made of?
Not that I know of.
But they are the romantic gestures that show me our love is real, even if the gestures seem silly and unromantic to the outside world.
Balancing Your Expectations and Reality
So does every woman need to settle for baked beans when she really has her heart set on a Chicken Cordon Bleu dinner?
I don’t think so.
I think the secret is to knowing yourself and knowing what you really want out of life, love, and marriage. If you need champagne and roses in your life, then by all means, hold out for it.
But if you don’t want that in a relationship, do not let society, literature, or the media tell you those are the requirements for a healthy marriage.
Don’t let your idea of romance be defined by others.
So roses, candles, and fillet mignon or Tic Tacs, baked beans, and memes, it doesn’t matter. The fairytale looks different for each of us. We just need to be brave enough to trust our heart and accept the version we want to write for ourselves.
I never realized I wouldn’t have cable or internet.
When Chad and I first got married and moved into our quaint apartment on Walnut Street back in 2011, I never thought about the things we wouldn’t have. I was thinking about picking out plates and where to hang my mirror and how many bath towels we would need. I was thinking about morning coffee together and lazy afternoons strolling around town. I was thinking about the life we would build together, the successes we would have, and all of the memories we would make.
In all fairness, we were super blessed. We had found an adorable apartment for a good price, and he had a great job. We had awesome family members who helped us get on our feet, helped us get furniture, helped us navigate the waters of living on our own.
But, for the first few months, we didn’t have internet or cable.
We were both nervous. We’d both lived at home until we got married, so we had no clue how to budget or how much the bills would cost or how to plan meals. We had no idea how to make a cleaning schedule or how to host a party or anything else about growing up.
So, for the first few months, we didn’t get cable or internet, wanting to see how we managed our money before adding anything else on.
We thought it would be tough. How would we survive without constant email updates and television shows? How would we manage?
But you know what? Looking back, they were a good few months.
Without cable and internet, we had a lot of movie nights, sitting on the couch with our homemade popcorn watching stuff together. We had a whole lot of game nights, a whole lot of walking nights. We had a whole lot of talking, a whole lot of cooking, a whole lot of time together. Quality time.
Eventually, like many couples, the luxuries started to add up as we got more comfortable with our budgets and moved up in our careers. The cable man came one dreary day, and the internet was suddenly something we didn’t know how we’d lived without. The game nights were still there…but suddenly I wanted to watch a show on television or he was surfing Youtube. Our walking nights turned into sitting nights, sometimes separately as we watched different things.
Now, there are so many nights we’re absorbed in our own world. We have so many things now, and life is nowhere near as simple as it was. We’ve got gaming systems, televisions, computers, a computer room, and everything in between to distract us from life and each other.
Looking back, those simple days were tough. There were days we had our eyes on what we didn’t have. But they were beautiful, too. They were days when all that mattered was having each other. All that mattered was our tiny apartment, our life starting out, our dreams about what would be someday.
In the past month, Chad and I have started a new weekly tradition, a shout out to our first months of marriage. Every Thursday, we have a movie night together. We pick a movie we have or on Netflix, and we watch it together with a snack.
You know what we’ve found? That one night of setting aside our personal distractions, that one single night of just sitting together and laughing at the same screen, it’s been amazing.
You can have internet and cable and still have a strong relationship. But you can have internet and cable and slip completely away.
The bottom line is, no matter what luxuries you have or don’t have, you have to make time for each other. Quality time, together only time, no distractions time. It doesn’t matter if you’re watching Alice in Wonderland or playing Yahtzee or painting a picture or just lounging on the couch. Sometimes simple times make for the strongest relationships.
Some people fall in love at a coffee shop, their eyes meeting and instantaneously telling them that they have found their match. Others meet while passing each other on the street or at the library. Love reveals itself at the mall, at work, in the produce aisle of a grocery store. It can come all at once, or it can languidly reveal itself between mutual friends. Love can transpire between two acquaintances thrown together by mutual friends or a dating website. It can come when we are young, when we are old, or anytime in between. It can come once, it can come twice, it can come more times than we can count. Love’s story is unique to each of us, despite the common core of its emotions. No two love stories are the same, despite what movies and literature may try to tell us.
For me, love revealed itself at the art table when I was twelve. True to love’s qualities, my love story is its own.
It was the first day of seventh grade, and my Cocoa Puffs were threatening to spew onto the floor from nerves. New students, new teachers, and new classes had upended my sense of calm that was usually shaky at best. Tapping my new shoes together and wishing I could fly back home, I waited for my name to be called for my seat in art class. Once in my chair, my brown eyes glanced around the room at the other faces, finding few that I recognized. That’s when I saw him. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid who would become my best friend, my first boyfriend, my fiancé, and eventually my husband. As fate would have it, he was seated across from me at the art table.
It wasn’t love at first sight. There weren’t angelic rays flooding onto us like a spotlight. No cheesy love song blasted from the speakers. Nonetheless, when I saw him, my twelve-year-old self knew that there was something about him. He wasn’t dressed like a model from the pages of my Seventeen magazine. He wasn’t flaunting himself or even saying a word. There was just something about him that I was drawn to, something that told him he would be important to me. That gut feeling was one hundred percent accurate, as I would soon find out.
From the beginning, Chad and I were the least likely couple you could imagine. I was Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, always saying “please” and burying my nose in a book. I was studious, serious, and rational to the core. He was free spirited, racking up detention halls as I racked up As. He cursed often, he hated school, and he hated rules. We had nothing in common other than the fact that we both played trumpet in the band and laughed at the same jokes.
Over the years, however, we found something in each other. At first, it was friendship fused by a common sense of humor and the time spent together at the art table. There was something between us, a light that ignited when we were with each other. There was an ease to our conversations, even at the young age of twelve. We brought something out in each other. He made my rigid personality lighten up, and I helped bring some seriousness and goal setting to his carefree nature.
As the years passed, we continued to grow together as we grew up. Laughter turned into kisses, dates turned into proms, and “I love yous” eventually turned into an engagement ring. We maneuvered the murky waters of adolescence together, finding that the connection merged would weather us through early adulthood as well. Many were skeptical about our relationship. Who finds their soulmate at twelve? However, we seemed to prove the naysayers wrong as we glided through our maturing relationship, always together.
Certainly there were struggles. There were immature fights over jealousy and the other nonsensical ramblings of teenagers. There were angry words and tears, broken promises and slamming doors. We fought, we thought about breaking up. We wondered if we should move on and find someone new. No matter what feelings or thoughts threatened to tear us apart, though, our love always conquered them. No matter what we faced, we always found that we faced it better together. We realized that together was our only desired option.
Now, at twenty-eight, people are amazed by our story. When we tell them that we have been each other’s “one and only” since we were twelve, we face skepticism and astonishment. In an age where you should try to “play the field,” we are an archaic trend from the past. When we got married, we had already been together for over a decade. At our wedding, our first dance was to Faith Hill’s “Just Breathe,” the song that we first danced to in junior high.
People assume that to be with one person since junior high, you must have an unbelievably perfect connection. This is far from the truth. Is our relationship roses and candles, smiles and stolen kisses? Are we living in a fantasy fairytale that is unattainable for others? The answer is a big fat no. Those who know us well know that we are not the ideal couple.
We fight, and we fight often. Although our opposing personalities often help us balance each other out, they can also lead to turmoil. I am a planner, while he is free spirited. I am a saver, while he is a spender. I am meek and self-conscious at times, while he isn’t afraid to stand up for himself when he feels cheated. I worry about social appearances, while he isn’t afraid to curse in public. Our differences often lead to differences of opinion. Like any other couple, we have been tempted to throw in the towel from time to time. We push each other away, we frustrate each other, we annoy each other. Somehow, though, we always find a way to bridge the gap between us, no matter how wide it gets. For all of the bad days we’ve had, there seem to be at least twenty good ones.
Additionally, we are not perfect adults, nor do we have the picture perfect life. We eat ice cream for dinner and buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We struggle to save money, splurging on impulsive buys. We don’t have a white picket fence in front of our house; in fact, our house is covered in the decaying leaves that I have been nagging him to clean up. I am a terrible cook, and he is a terrible handyman. Our only children have four legs. We are still working out the details and rules of this thing called adulthood.
Through it all, though, we’ve learned one thing together: love isn’t perfect. The idea that it is perfect stems from a meticulously constructed illusion that fairytales do exist in real life, that the show Once Upon a Time can actually happen.
In our world, however, Prince Charming doesn’t exist, but neither does Snow White. Instead, we must realize that love is about sacrifice, about reality. It’s about finding joy in the small things together. It’s about ignoring his annoying chewing habits and him forgiving me for spending way too much on makeup.
It’s about just finding something to smile about each day. It’s about deciding that our faults deserve forgiveness because at the end of the day, we’d rather fight through our struggles than throw in the towel. It’s about deciding that our history together is worthy more than giving up or trying to find something new. It’s about choosing to believe in the power of us and our story over the pull of temptation. It’s about realizing that our life together isn’t even close to being perfect, but it makes us perfectly content overall.
So no, our story isn’t all that special. We are not romantic heroes who deserve a medal for staying together so long in a fickle society. We are not blinded by an unattainable love, we are not the model marriage. We don’t have this whole thing called love or life figured out. We’re still changing, we’re still growing, and we’re still searching for ourselves.
We are, however, proof that against all odds, against the statistics and stereotypes, our generation can stay true. Despite our “short attention spans” blamed on technology and our tendency to stray, our generation can stay in a monogamous, meaningful, fulfilling relationship. We do still believe in the power of love and the possibility of experiencing life with the right person. Chad and I are not supermodels or movie stars. We are not relationship experts. We are, however, two people who found each other at a young age and invested in each other. We are two average twenty-somethings who value love, our relationship, and the life we have built together.
Above all, though, we are just a boy and a girl who fell in love at the art table in seventh grade.
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